When an interviewer asks you to describe your work ethic, they’re looking for a couple of specific things.
…And giving the wrong answer to this question could cast doubts on whether you’re the person they want to hire.
So in this article, we’ll look at how to answer this question in a job interview… with sample answers, mistakes to avoid, and more.
Employers want to hire someone who is motivated, hard-working, and able to stay focused on the job.
They’re paying you and they want to make sure they’re getting good value for that investment.
So while this isn’t a trick question, the employer does want to make sure that you sound hard-working, resilient, and positive/upbeat about your work when they ask questions about work ethic.
They also want to make sure you’ve thought about this topic in general. Is work ethic something that’s important to you? (Hint: You want to show them that it is!)
So now that you know why they ask this question, let’s look at how you should answer to impress them.
The best way to answer this interview question is to sound like you’re consistent, reliable, and hard-working. You never want to sound like you lack motivation. And you don’t want to sound like you’re unpredictable, either.
Employers prefer someone who is predictable and steady over someone who does amazing work one day but then struggles the next day.
A hiring manager prefers that first type of person because it’s easier to predict the results of their work and easier to rely on them to get important tasks done. That’s what every hiring manager wants.
So along with a strong work ethic, you need to show consistency.
Next, let’s look at a few example answers that follow everything we talked about above.
Here are two word-for-word answers that would impress an interviewer when they ask, “how would you describe your work ethic?”:
I would describe my work ethic as reliable and consistent. I enjoy my work and I find it easy to stay motivated and productive. I’ve also noticed that I feel better at the end of the day when I’ve had a great, productive day. So I find it rewarding, too. I guess I’m fortunate, but I’ve never struggled with motivation or work ethic, and I consider it to be one of my strengths.
I’m a hard worker. I think I picked up the habit from my father, who always encouraged consistent work and stressed the importance of doing things the right way and not taking shortcuts. So, work ethic is something that’s important to me and something I take pride in. I try to show up each day with the same effort and mindset so that I can deliver consistent results for my team and be someone they can count on.
You can see from the sample answers above that there isn’t one “right” response. You can share a personal story about how you developed your work ethic (like response #2 above) or just dive into a more straightforward explanation like in example #1.
As long as you show them that you work hard and come to work each day with a consistent effort and positive outlook, you’ll impress the interviewer.
Use the following adjectives when answering, “What is your work ethic?” These words will help you sound professional and hard-working.
Make sure to select options that are true and really fit your personality when answering, though. That way, you will sound genuine!
When answering interview questions about your work ethic and work habits, avoid the following mistakes:
First, don’t brush this question off or act like it’s not an important topic. While it doesn’t relate to your job-specific skills (like marketing, customer service, graphic design, data analysis, etc.) it can be just as important to an employer! So take this question seriously.
Next, avoid sounding like you dislike work or do it only to earn a paycheck. It’s much better to show them that you take pride in doing good work, or that you find it rewarding to contribute to the team’s efforts. Or at the very least, show that you recognize that coming into work with high energy and effort each day will help you further your career, so you’re motivated and consistent with your work ethic because of this.
And finally, show that you’ve thought about this question in advance by responding clearly, and don’t act like you’re caught off-guard or unsure what to say. Use the steps and examples above to prepare a good, direct answer that you can go to! This will show the employer that you’ve thought about this topic in the past and take pride in your work ethic.
“Describe your work ethic,” isn’t a trick question, but it does require preparation if you want to impress the interviewer.
When employers ask about this topic, they want to see that work ethic is important to you and that you approach your work in a reliable, professional way.
If you follow the tips and examples above, you’ll show the interviewer that you bring a consistent, positive attitude and great work ethic each day, which will help you get more job offers in any industry.
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Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
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